Monday, September 30, 2013

Schiappacasse River Pathway, Reno, Nevada

Reno's bike-friendly Edgewater neighborhood
The Schiappacasse River Pathway is a small segment of the Tahoe-Pyramid Bikeway along the Truckee River. This recreational path underpasses Reno's South McCarran Boulevard between Crissie Caughlin Park and the adjacent Alum Creek neighborhood east of McCarran and the Edgewater neighborhood west of McCarran. Underneath the McCarran Blvd. Bridge you will find a metal plaque by the Regional Transportation Commission indicating 1989 as the year of the bridge completion.

The bridge is seen in the background of the picture on top. The right-side picture shows the Riverhaven Avenue/Edgewater Parkway junction, from where the Tahoe-Pyramid Bikeway continues westward by joining roads with motorized traffic. The next locations along the bikeway, having river access, are Dorostkar Park and Mayberry Park.

At the point where the Edgewater Parkway continues as the Schiapacasse path—open to bicycle and pedestrian traffic only—a sign is posted announcing  “City of Reno - Schiappacasse Park - Public River Access.” The “Schiappacasse Park” provides river access; most people, however, wouldn't recognize this as a park—especially, not those areas under the bridge span. But don't worry, nicely landscaped Crissie Caughlin Park with its George Vicari oak tree and Betsy Caughlin Donnelly Park via the Alum Creek connector trail are close by. The junction of the latter with the Schiappacasse River Pathway is located between the McCarran Bridge and Crissie Caughlin Park.

Getting there
East side. Find the deadend of Idlewild Drive alongside Crissie Caughlin Park and the continuation of its bike lane as Schiappacasse River Pathway. Cross over the bridge with a sign saying “This area has been adopted by and is under the stewardship of the Reno Urban Forestry Commission.”
West side. From the intersection of South McCarran Boulevard and Mayberry Drive, go west on Mayberry Drive. After less than a quarter-mile turn right onto Edgewater Parkway and continue to its junction with Riverhaven Avenue.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Recreational and memorial lawn sites: Crissie Caughlin Park, Reno, Nevada

George Vicari pin oak
Crissie Caughlin Park is a stretch of green along the Truckee River. The park features picnic sites, a playground and a horseshoe pit. A pin oak (Quercus palustris) tree (right-side picture) in the park is dedicated to Sacramento-born George Vicari, co-owner of the La Fleur Flower Shop and lover of books and art (see obituary). A metal-on-rock inscription refers to George Vicari as ”A True Friend And Soul Mate.”

Crissie Caughlin Park makes its mark along the Tahoe-Pyramid Bikeway. West of the George Vicari tree and the horseshoe pit (view in top picture), the bicycle and pedestrian trail continues along the Truckee River: welcome to the Schiappacasse River Pathway. This paved path connects Crissie Caughling Park with Betsy Caughlin Donnelly Park via the Alum Creek trail. It also connects with the neighborhood west of South McCarran Boulevard, where the bike path continues from the Riverhaven Avenue/Edgewater Parkway junction westward to Dorostkar Park and Mayberry Park, other small picnic parks with Truckee River access.

Getting there
From downtown Reno, drive south on South Virginia Street and turn right onto California Avenue. Stay on California all the way to its end and continue westward on Idlewild Drive. Alternately, drive west on West First Street and turn left onto Riverside Drive (at W. First St./Ralston Street junction). After crossings over the Truckee River bridge, turn right onto Idlewild Drive and follow it to its junction with California Avenue. Continue on Idlewild Drive. Before its deadend section, next to its junction with Riverberry Drive, you will find parking lots and restrooms on the right side along Crissie Caughlin Park.

Crissie Caughlin Park playground

Monday, September 23, 2013

Betsy Caughlin Donnelly Park and adjacent ranch house parcel

Betsy Caughlin Donnelly Park is a small neighborhood park at the intersection of South McCarran Boulevard and Mayberry Drive in Reno, Nevada. The Mayberry Landing Boutique Shopping Center (including a coffeeshop and a bakery), Gomm Elementary School and Roy Gomm School Park are found across S. McCarran Blvd. along the west side of the park. Betsy Caughlin Donnelly Park is connected with Crissie Caughlin Park and the Truckee River trails via a northward path along Alum Creek, across Mayberry Drive. Betsy Caughlin Donnelly Park is also connected with the Juniper Trails at Caughlin Ranch via the S. McCarran Blvd. underpass at its southwest corner.

Walking the paved trails of Betsy Caughlin Donnelly Park and looking eastward over Alum Creek, you will spot an old ranch house. This is where Betsy Caughlin Donnelly, the park's namesake, was born on May 12, 1902. A panel at an interpretive park stop, subtitled “In Memory of a Generous Soul and True Nevadan,”  tells us that “she always wanted to keep some open land on the Ranch so that future generations of Nevadans could enjoy it along with the gently grazing cattle, as has been the case since 1900.” Maybe Betsy deserves the title of the first female open-space advocate of Nevada?

The open-space parcel that became Betsy Caughlin Donnelly Park was donated in 1970 by Betsy to the Washoe County Parks Department. Today, it is a small landscape with a creek, lawns and adjacent orchard and pasture land within an urban setting. From the park lawns one can view the real open space of the Mount Peavine slopes and the Carson Range.

An interpretive panel in the park says that Betsy was a third generation Nevadan whose family influenced the shape and character of the local community over many years. The panel provides park visitors with interesting details on the history of the ranch house (seen above) and the surrounding ranch lands:

In 1874 the Caughlin Ranch [...] was purchased by Betsy Donnelly's grandparents, George and Betsi Andrews. In 1895 their daughter, Crissie married Australian born William Henry Caughlin, who was the sheriff of Washoe County for three terms. After marriage, at Crissie's insistence, he did not run for sheriff again. Crissie had been running the ranch alone since her brother's death in 1894, the result of a kick in the stomach by a horse on the ranch.

Betsy was the youngest of the four children of Crissie and William Henry Caughlin. She was born in the front room of the main ranch house, which was moved from Virginia City by wagon and the Virginia and Truckee Railroad in 1900. The family raised alfalfa, wheat and cattle on the ranch until 1918, at which time the ranch was leased to local ranchers.

Pastures within the park continue to be leased by local ranchers for ranching activities. The ranch house remains in place as part of the private home parcel, which remains under family ownership.

The Caughlin Ranch attracted many notable historical personalities during its early years. Crissie Caughlin became friends with writers Mark Twain and Bret Harte. Cowboy poet and artist, Will James, worked at the ranch. Boxing legend, Jack Johnson, trained at the ranch for his heavyweight title bout with Jeffries in 1910. 

You may want to run your own training program in the park, work out on its lawns or sit on one of those benches in the park's southeast corner, reading or overlooking orchard and pasture. The latter is used for kite flying, when the winds are right. The picture below captures a northwest view from the park across Reno neighborhoods towards Mount Peavine.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Devastated Area Interpretive Trail in Lassen Volcanic

Old Giants: red dacit formed at Lassen_Peak 27,000 years ago

The Devastated Area Interpretive Trail in Lassen Volcanic National Park, California, is a short, wheelchair-accessible loop trail with interpretive and audio exhibits that feature aftermath evidence of Lassen Peak's catastrophic eruptions in May of 1915. Businessman, photographer, and author, Benjamin F. Loomis—Lassen Park's Loomis Museum is named in memory of his daughter Mae—came to inspect this area after one eruption, when the next one was following. An on-site panel describes that event:
On May 22, 1915, seven men, including photographer B. F. Loomis, passed near here while inspecting the damage that followed Lassen Peak's May 19 eruption. They were astounded by what they saw, but could not suspect that the horrific scene would be repeated just hours later. Had they dallied they might not have survived, for Lassen Peak blew again at 4:45 p.m. that afternoon.

Black dacite
Large lava rocks blasted from Lassen crater and were carried for many miles by avalanches to finally rest as monuments throughout what became to be the Devastated Area. Rocks of the May 19 and May 22 eruptions are aligned at the interpretive exhibit with the title New Rocks, Old Rocksblack dacite, banded pumice and light dacite pumice. An older rock that formed during an eruption about 27,000 years ago is the red dacite. Another “old-rock” red dacite is the giant boulder at the Old Giants exhibit. It is shown in the top picture. The panel says that it formed 27,000 years ago, when Lassen Peak first erupted, and was torn from the volcano via avalanche caused by the May 19 eruption.

Other exhibits along the loop trail showcase the legacy of B. F. Loomis, who photo-chronicled Lassen Peak's eruptions and glowing lava rocks. Further exhibits illustrate the mixing and solidification of basalt-injected dacite lava and the fracturing of cooling rocks into jigsaw-puzzle-like pieces.

Light dacite_pumice
If you are interest in rocks that have been shaped and altered by geothermal activity, you can find examples inside the Loomis Museum. A wall exhibit displays various specimen including Bumpass Hell sulfurous andesite, Sulfur Works quartz-pyrite pseudomorph, weathered Chaos Crags dacite and alunite-dusted clay.


Sunday, September 15, 2013

Cragsglow south of Manzanita Lake in Lassen Volcanic

Lassen Volcanic National Park's landscape has been a stage for glowing rocks during several episodes in its geological past.  According to an interpretive panel along the Devastated Area Trail, glowing lava rock was ejected from the crater of  Lassen Peak during the most recent eruptions (1914-1917) of this plug dome volcano. Rolled-down rocks—hot to touch—were captured by photographer Benjamin F. Loomis during that time.

The photo above captures the north-facing side of Chaos Crags during sunset, seen from Manzanita Lake on Sunday, September 1, 2013. This cold-rock glow, let's call it cragsglow, is the Lassen Volcanic version of alpenglow (after the German word Alpenglühen). The avalanche slopes of Chaos Crags are accessible via a half-day hike along Chaos Crags Trail to Chaos Crater, which takes you to a close-up experience with this wild rockfall terrain. Manzanita Lake is a somewhat safer place to view Chaos Crags; although this very lake is said to have been formed by damming Manzanita Creek after a cataclysmic rock avalanche that happened about 300 years ago. Lassen Volcanic visitors certainly will pay respect to the unstable slopes of the Chaos Crags plug dome volcanoes, which will let loose again in future. Naturally illuminated during the evening of a peaceful day, they make a spectacular backdrop.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Chaos Crags Trail to Chaos Crater

Inspite of its name that suggests rugged terrain, most of Lassen Volcanic's Chaos Crags Trail is a well-maintained, single-track trail through open forest and manzanita brushland interspersed with boulders. The hike to the Chaos Crater consists of a moderate ascend up to its rim. Only from this open ridge, your final approach involves a downhill climb with uneven footing and possible rockfall. The crater bottom may seasonally turn into a crater pond referred to as “Crags Lake.”

Hikers often prefer to skip the final descend and, instead, rest on the rocks along the open rim, overviewing both the crater hole and the breathtaking scenery of the steep slopes and talus sites below the craggy mountaintops. Chaos Crags is prone to massive rock avalanches. The Chaos Jumbles area between today's Lassen Park Road and the Nobles Emigrants Trail have been estimated to be a result of an avalanche that happened about 300 years ago. That giant slide created Manzanita Lake by damming Manzanita Creek. In fact, all facilities at Manzanita Lake, including the Loomis Museum, were closed in the mid-1970s, when a recurrence of such an event was expected. Reopening began in the 1990s. [1-3].

The Chaos area is a potential hazard zone. Cold rock avalanches will be triggered by earthquakes. High-speed hot-rock avalanches can be expected during an eruption of Chaos Crags, which happened—so far for the last time—about 1,100 years ago [2,4].

Getting to the Chaos Crags trailhead
The trailhead is located next to the road leading to the Manzanita Lake Campground. You'll find the junction of this campground road with the Lassen Park Road just east of the Loomis Museum, less than a mile to the east of the northwest entrance station of Lassen Volcanic National Park. Follow the campground road for a short distance to where it curves back west. Find the small parking area to your left next to Manzanita Creek and in front of the trailhead sign. Do not confuse this trailhead with the one for the Manzanita Creek Trail, which is located at the beginning of the D loop within the campground. The Manzanita Creek Trail requires a two-mile hike to actually reach Manzanita Creek, while the Chaos Crags Trail starts out along roaring Manzanita Creek and then veers off northeast.

More about Lassen Volcanic, its trails and its history:

References and more to explore
[1] Lassen Volcanic National Park (5): Manzanita Lake [].
[2] USGS Volcano Hazards Program: Chaos Crags and Chaos Jumbles [].
[3] Tim I. Purdy: Lassen Volcanic. Lahontan Images, Susanville, California, 2009; pp. 186-190.
[4] USGS Volcano Hazards Program: Hazards [].

Friday, September 13, 2013

Kings Creek Cascades and Falls

Exploring Lassen Volcanic National Park by driving the Lassen Park Road from the Lassen Peak trailhead to Summit Lake, you are passing the Kings Creek picnic area and Upper Meadow before you will arrive at the Kings Creek trailhead, where only a few roadside parking lots are available that easily fill up on weekend days. Next to the stairs at the trailhead a panel introduces visitors to the Kings Creek Trails:

Beauty of the Earth abounds along this five-mile loop trail. And meadows, lakes, creeks, waterfalls, wildflowers, and wildlife offer much to contemplate. Kings Creek continues flowing from here, cascading down the mountain into Warner Valley and emptying into the larger Warner Creek. Kings Creek Falls, a 50-foot waterfall, is worth the 2.4-mile round-trip hike to reach it. Hikers wanting to complete the full-loop trail can make stops at Bench Lake, which is more a pond than a lake, and Sifford Lakes, a cluster of six lakes. The first lake in the Sifford cluster offers a chance for a midsummer dip. Backpackers or distance hikers can also use this trailhead to connect with Warner Valley trails, which offer several unusual hydrothermal feature destinations.

Lassen Volcanic definitely provides an astonishing trail network—as I eagerly have alluded to in my Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center post. The Kings Creek Trails are right in the middle of it. The map below will help you to integrate the mentioned five-mile loop into your hiking plan, including side trips to Bench Lake and the Sifford Lakes .

If you are mainly interested in waterfalls, the Kings Creek Falls trail is the one to hike. Not only is its destination a waterfall, but along the trail you will hear and overlook water cascading its way downcreek towards Warner Valley—as seen in the pictures above. Due to extremely hazardous hiking conditions, the short Cascades Foot Trail has been closed. But you'll find cataract vistas off the Horse Trail to the right. Descend this trail to the creek and follow the 0.2 mile path along Kings Creek with water spilling over rock steps at several points until you arrive at the overlook of Kings Creek Falls (upper right picture on my Lassen Volcanic overview page). 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Lassen Peak Trail: from the Lassen Park Road to Lassen Peak Summit

Lassen Peak is a  plug dome volcano in Lassen Volcanic National Park, northeast California. Since the collapse of towering Mt. Tehama less than 10,000 years ago, Lassen Peak at Mt. Tehama's northern edge is the highest mountain in the area: a popular destination for day-hike mountaineers. 

The well-maintained, 2.5-mile-long Lassen Peak Trail is steep and rocky, ascending 2,000 feet from the parking lot at Lassen Park Road's high point (8,512 ft, 2594 m) into the thinner air around the summit (10,457 feet, 3187 m). The photo above shows the broad sandy path just north of the trailhead. You also can see the short-cut trail that thoughtless hikers blazed up the steep slope off the first switchback. The list of Know before you go recommendations posted at the trailhead reminds hikers to stay on the trail, since short-cutting scars the landscape and takes years to heal. The trailhead panel also summarizes Lassen Peak's history:

The five-mile round trip hike to Lassen Peak introduces you to the volcanic event that spoke to a nation. On May 30, 1914, Lassen Peak awoke from a 27,000-year-long slumber, blasting steam out of a newly formed summit vent. By the following May, some 180 steam explosions had left a wide crater in the mountain's top. At the time, Lassen was the only actively erupting volcano in the U.S., and the nation looked on with wonder. The climatic eruptions of May 19 and 22, 1915, swept clean forests, pastures, and homesteads in the valleys below Lassen Peak's northeast flank. And on August 9, 1916, Congress duly recognized the forces of nature by establishing Lassen Volcanic National Park for all time.

More detailed descriptions of Lassen Peak's past eruptions can be found elsewhere [1-3]. A series of small earthquake swarms beneath the peak's southwest flank occurred in 2009 [1]. Lassen's volcanic activity is periodically monitored by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) measuring ground deformation and volcanic gas emission [2]. You probably did visit nearby geothermally active areas such as Bumpass Hell and already have an idea of the ground and subterranean structures you are walking on. As long as the Volcanic Alert Level is normal and the Aviation Color Code is green, park officials will leave the Lassen Peak Trail open. It is your responsibility to check weather conditions and decide whether you feel safe to go.

Lassen Peak has a few permanent snowfields, which can be spotted on its upper northeast-facing slopes in the picture below. Early in the season you should expect the trail be covered by patches of ice and snow. When climbing along the summit ridge you will notice that there are two summits. After reaching the false summit, scale the real one and enjoy the magnificent view [4]:

To reach the actual summit, climb down into the saddle, cross the snowfield, and ascend the talus on the northern rim of the crater. The views of Mount Shasta to the northwest, and the Devastated Area on the northwest-facing slopes [what about the northeast-facing slopes?] of Lassen, are best from here. The white cone of the radio tower is the single sign of human influence on the summit; the lookout pictured on the interpretive sign is long gone. It's you, the wind, and the views, and it is wonderful.

References and more to explore
[1] USGS Volcano Information: Lassen Volcanic Center [].
[2] National Park Service: The Eruption of Lassen Peak [].
[3] Malin Space Science Systems: The May 1915 Eruptions of Lassen Peak, California, I: Characteristics of Events Occuring May 19 [].
[4] Tracy Salcedo-Chourré: Hiking Lassen Volcanic Park. Globe Pequot Press, Guilford, Connecticut, 2001; pp. 42-46.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Bumpass Hell Trail: traversing between Bumpass Mountain and Little Hot Springs Valley towards Lassen's hot spots

The 1.5-mile-long Bumpass Hell Trail in Lassen Volcanic National Park connects its trailhead parking lot at the Lassen Park Road and nearby Lake Helen with Bumpass Hell. This is a boardwalk-accessible hydrothermal area of hot springs, steam vents and mudpots occupying the old eroded vent of a dormant dome volcano—Bumpass Mountain, whose present peak can be seen half a mile north.

The first half of the trail is a well-graded path east of Little Hot Springs Valley. This section with a  negligible elevation gain of 200 feet takes you to a saddle with a west-side overlook offering views of Mt. Conard, Diamond Peak, Brokeoff Mountain, Mount Diller and Pilot Pinnacle. An interpretive panorama panel puts the current landscape geologically into context with once towering Mt. Tehama—before it collapsed and present day Lassen Peak, a plug dome volcano, took over its landmark role.

The second half of the Bumpass Hell Trail leads over the saddle and downhill into the hydrothermal area to the east of the saddle. Along this section you'll find an interpretive panel introducing the area's namesake: ill-fated cowboy-prospector Kendall Vanhook Bumpass (1809-1885). Descending further, you'll come to a junction, at which the boardwalk over the brittle crust of the geothermal field starts, while along its south margin a hiking trail continues to Cold Boiling Lake (1.9 mi, 3.0 km), Crumbaugh Lake (2.4 mi, 3.8 km) and Kings Creek Picnic Area (2.5 mi, 4.0 km). From Crumbaugh Lake, you can continue west to Mill Creek Falls and the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center at Lassen Volcanic's southwest entrance.

If you don't mind whiffs of rotten-egg smell and an occasional breeze of hot steam from a fumarole, you may want to stroll along the educational boardwalk and explore—close-up—the hydrothermal area, which Tracy Salcedo-Chourré described as follows [1]:

Bumpass Hell's evocative name suits it perfectly. Like its moniker, this geothermal area is a combination of the whimsical and the ominous. Fantastically colored superheated water swirls and bubbles in large pools, and burping mudpots are endlessly entertaining, but columns of hot steam and the wickedly rotten scent of volcanic gases (not to mention the numerous warning signs posted alongside boardwalks) are vivid reminders of the violence of the area.

You probably recognized one of those entertaining mudpots in the photo above. Along the boardwalk interpretive panels explain the working of other hydrothermal features including the Big Boiler, a fumarole with steam temperatures as high as 322 F (161 °C), the Boiling Pool with bacteria living in its hot acid-sulfate water, and the Pyrite Pools with black scum—a frothy mass containing tiny crystals of the iron-sulfide mineral pyrite—floating on its surface. Yellow sulfur and white-yellow sulfate salts are found scattered all over the thin crust surrounding the pools and holes. At the end of the boardwalk you'll arrive at the turquoise pool shown below. Here, the less heated ground and cooler water allow for the growth of plants including mountain heather and bog-laurel.

[1] Tracy Salcedo-Chourré: Hiking Lassen Volcanic Park. Globe Pequot Press, Guilford, Connecticut, 2001; page 40.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Lassen Volcanic's southwest entrance: visitor center and trailheads

Most first-time visitors to Lassen Volcanic—the high-elevation Lassen Volcanic National Park—explore this wild and expansive terrain of hydrothermal activity, forests, lakes and waterfalls via the Lassen Park Road. This section of California Highway 89 is winding through the park from its northwest entrance near Highway 44 to the southwest entrance—or vice versa if you are going-north oriented. Other entrances for motorized traffic exist; for example, from Chester via Warner Valley to the Drakesbad Guest Ranch, from Chester to Juniper Lake, and from Highway 44 near the park's northeast corner to Butte Lake and the cinder cone area.

Next to the southwest-corner entrance station is the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Centeropen year-round (details on its Geotourism page):

Summer: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; winter: 9 a.m. to 5. p.m. | Park admission: $10.
The visitor center, being the remodeled Lassen Ski Chalet, is a sustainably designed building including a cafeteria, a book and postcard store and a museum. The latter introduces visitors to the park history, its biodiversity and the multitude of geologically interesting features—some of them dispersed throughout the parkland and in “continuous operation,” offering hands-on or nose-on experiences. The museum illustrates the four different volcano types, for all of which examples can be found within Lassen's geological wonderland, including Lassen Peak—the snow mountain (Kohm Yah-mah-nee) and plug dome volcano.

According to the provided handout map, Lassen Volcanic has 150 miles of park trails including 17 miles of Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). Brittle-ground hydrothermal areas such as Sulphur Works and Bumpass Hell feature handrail-lined boardwalks. The interpreted Sulphur Works area and the Ridge Lakes trailhead are located about one miles north of the visitor center. From the center itself, you may want to hike to Mill Creek Falls along a trail that continues to Crumbaugh Lake and Cold Boiling Lake, from where you will find trail connections to Bumpass Hell and Kings Creek. There are trails coming in and leading out of the park (the PCT, for instance). An astonishing web of trails connects must-see landmarks and remote places: a dream-come-true trail paradise that for sure is inspiring advocates and developers of other preserves and open-space landscapes—and that offers urbanites hours of recreation and relaxation.

The Lassen Volcanic trail network invites hikers and backpackers to explore the volcanic wonderland via day-walks, long-distance hikes and individually planned loop routes. All trailheads along the park highway, which can get busy on summer holiday weekends, are well marked and accessorized with interpretive panels explaining local highlights and history.